Award To Honor Exemplary Leadership By A College Player
DALLAS (Dec. 19, 2019) – The three finalists for the third annual Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year were announced today. In line for the award, which recognizes exemplary leadership both on and off the field, are Isaiah Sanders of Air Force, Michael Pittman, Jr., of USC, and Trey Smith of Tennessee.
Selected from a group of 20 semifinalists by a subset of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Board of Directors, the three finalists have all demonstrated an outstanding record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship. All three will be invited to the award ceremony on February 18, 2020, at The Star in Frisco, Texas, where the winner will be announced.
“I am very excited to announce these three outstanding young men as the finalists for the third annual Collegiate Man of the Year,” said Witten. “Isaiah Sanders, Michael Pittman, Jr., and Trey Smith have all proven themselves to be great leaders on the field, in the classroom and in the community, and they are perfect examples of what being a student-athlete is all about. It was nearly impossible to choose just three from all of the great players nominated. There are so many great representatives for college football, and I commend all of the nominees for the tremendous example of leadership they set on and off the field.”
Isaiah Sanders, Air Force (Sr., QB) – Quarterback at Air Force, where he is also his team’s community service representative and the cadet-in-charge of the academy’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. Sanders has worked closely with Undivided, a non-profit focused on strengthening communities, and he was recently named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and as a finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy for his work in the community. In the classroom, Sanders has a 3.86 GPA and currently operates as his squadron’s flight officer.
Michael Pittman, Sr., USC (Sr., WR) – Having accumulated more than 2,000 receiving yards in his career with the Trojans, Pittman was recently named first-team All-PAC 12. He has overcome his struggles with stuttering to become a team captain and leader of the USC football program. He uses this struggle as a platform to promote reading skills to elementary students. Pittman, a Biletnikoff Award finalist, volunteers countless hours to a wide variety of organizations, and he also sponsors a child in Indonesia through Compassion International.
Trey Smith, Tennessee (Jr., OL) – One of the most dominant linemen in football and a 2019 first-team All-SEC honoree, Smith was a Freshman All-American who had to fight his way back on the field after being diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs before the start of his sophomore season. His return to the field and excellent play this season has been an inspiration to his team. A member of the 2018 SEC Community Service Team and a Wuerffel Trophy nominee, Smith spearheaded a coat drive for the Knoxville Area Rescue Ministry and was selected as a member of the 2018 VOLeaders Class, a group of leaders chosen across all sports at Tennessee.
The Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year, presented by Albertsons and Tom Thumb, is the first college football honor to focus primarily on a player’s leadership, both on and off the field. The inaugural award was presented to UCF’s Shaquem Griffin and Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon earned the second annual honor last February.
Leadership is a term synonymous with Jason Witten, who, in addition to becoming one of the best tight ends in the history of the sport and the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver, served as one of football’s most prominent role models during his 16-year pro career. In addition to winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2012, Witten has also received the Bart Starr Award, Pro Football Weekly’s Humanitarian of the Year Award, Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP and the Bob Lilly Award, among many others. All of those honors have recognized his work in the community, achievements on the field and dedication to his teammates and family.
The winner of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year will also receive a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school’s athletic scholarship fund. The contribution will be made by Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, the official charity of Jason and his wife Michelle. The SCORE Foundation, founded in 2007, has positively impacted tens of thousands of children and families in Texas and Tennessee over the last 12 years. The foundation operates its nationally-recognized SCOREkeepers program, which places trained male mentors on staff to work with children at family violence shelters, at nine shelters in the two states. SCORE has also operated a weekend food backpack program for disadvantaged children in North Texas, opened Jason Witten Learning Centers in five different Boys & Girls Clubs and opened the Jason and Michelle Witten Emergency Waiting Room at the Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City, Tenn.